Guest blogger Gareth Thomas, Minister for Trade and Development at DFID

28 July 2009


Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas


Sweet Success of Fairtrade

With chocolate being one of my guilty pleasures, I was delighted to be asked to become a guest blogger for Divine this week!

As a Minister in the Government’s Department for International Development, I am responsible for, amongst other things, fair and ethical trade. It is a part of my job that gives me a huge sense of pride when I consider how far we’ve come on Fairtrade in the past decade but it is one where we are facing up to the challenges of the future. 

Ten years ago there was little opportunity for shoppers to buy Fairtrade goods off the shelves of shops and supermarkets in the UK but now, thanks to companies like Divine, shoppers in this country can make a decision to support producers in poor countries through their everyday purchases.  The pioneering work of fair trade companies has definitely led the way for mainstream manufacturers and retailers to get involved in fair trade too.

I am pleased that even in testing economic times, the public is not turning away from Fairtrade products. Sales increased by 43 per cent last year and large producers continue to work with farmers, growers and manufacturers in some of the world’s poorest countries to ensure they are receiving a fair deal for their products. 

The Department for International Development is committed to supporting fair and ethical trade. In our recent White Paper we announced that we would quadruple funding for fair and ethical trade – this will take our funding to £18 million over the next four years. We want to see an even wider range of Fairtrade products on the shelves of UK shops – there are already Fairtrade pants, beer, oils and even vicar’s shirts, but I look forward to seeing the range continue to expand. There’s also much to do in raising awareness among the general public of how our daily purchases connect us to countries across the world through trade, and of how they can support development through their normal shopping.

On another note, I’m a Co-Operative MP myself, so I’m particularly impressed with the work of Kuapa Kokoo – a shining example of what can happen when a community cooperates together. For over 15 years, farmers have, through the Co-operative, worked together to increase the benefit and profit to the whole community. I believe that this kind of co-operative is more important than ever in the current economic climate and the ever increasing success of Divine shows that the Co-Operative model is still working well in the 21st century.

Festival Fun at Ben & Jerry’s Sundae

27 July 2009

Main Stage (credit Gemma Davis)Icecream (credit Gemma Davis)Cows (credit Gemma Davis)Human League (credit Gemma Davis)

We had such fun at the Ben and Jerry’s Sundae Festival on Clapham Common this weekend! Music, carousels, a helter-skelter, toe wrestling, egg painting, banana bashing and heaps of free ice cream!

Divine and Dubble were sampling and selling our chocolate as well as offering free Adinkra symbol Henna tattoos. We had a great pitch close to the main stage so we were happy talking to visitors and listening to the likes of bands such as Super Furry Animals and Futureheads.

The weather was stunning on Saturday, perfect for ice cream, maybe not so perfect for chocolate! The rain on Sunday evening didn’t put a dampener on things – not when you’re listening to the 80’s classics from The Human League!

Check out some of Ben & Jerry’s photos from the event, and a special thank you to Gemma Davis for use of her photos in this post. We’re already looking forward to next year!

Divine flies high with Virgin Atlantic

20 July 2009
Divine stand at Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Divine stand at Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Hotshot Sir Richard Branson has long appreciated giving Virgin clients classy, memorable experiences, whether they’re staying on his ultra-lux Carribean island in the British Virgin Isles or closer to home: as Virgin Atlantic flyers in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 to be precise.

David and I spent the day in the upperclass lounge, aka the Clubhouse, of Virgin Atlantic at Heathrow airport, hosting a Divine chocolate masterclass, wowing and wooing the taste buds of passengers and staff alike making knockout white chocolate & tequila truffles and plenty more Divine-style treats besides.

Virgin Atlantic planes from the outside terrace

Planes from the outside terrace

Virgin Atlantic and Divine have worked together for a number of years now.  Today our National Account Manager and trained chocolatier David and I were to host a series of Divine cookery demos throughout the day.  So we set up our stand at the end of the bar and spent the day chatting to interested passengers and staff about the company and cooking with Divine.  And of course there were plenty of samples to go round.  At various intervals during the day we demonstrated how to make truffles.  David’s very own creation, Divine White Chocolate Tequila Truffles, was a unanimous hit.  They combined melted white chocolate, cream, tequila, lime zest and juice.  After cooling in the fridge the mixture was then moulded into balls which were then dipped into a vat of melted pure 70% chocolate.  After a second dipping in the melted chocolate, the truffles were left to set.  Finally they were sprinkled with a few grains of sea salt and a little lime zest.  A Divine take on a tequila shot!!  See the full recipe here.

Tequila Truffles

Tequila Truffles

We also demonstrated how to make dark chocolate truffles – nothing more technical than making a ganache by melting Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with some double cream, using a melon scooper and your hands to roll into truffle balls and coating in Divine Cocoa Powder.

Later in the day the Virgin Atlantic kitchen gave us some strawberries so that passengers could dip them in our cauldron of melted dark chocolate (actually a rather clever tempering machine which keeps the chocolate at a steady temperature so that it remains in melted form).  David got some passengers to sample a square of the 70% bar with a few granules of sea salt – he said it really brings out the flavour of the chocolate and both myself and the passengers were really excited to learn this.  I remember now the most incredible pudding I ate at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze once – a chocolate fondant with sea salt ice cream – makes sense now!



A number of passengers we spoke to were returning home to the US and were delighted to learn that Divine is available to buy there as well as in the UK.  After sampling the hand-made truffles, along with some of the Divine chocolate bar and gift range, they took with them a bar of their favourite flavour and some recipe cards from David.  One passenger said “this chocolate is magical!”, another was so taken with the chocolate he asked to have a bar of each of our nine flavours there and then, and then proceeded to tap away at his iphone to find his nearest Wholefoods store in the US so that he could keep stocked up on his new favourite chocolate brand.  Passengers and staff alike were incredibly interested in the chocolatey goings-on and grateful from some Divine pre-flight action.  They were disappointed to learn that we wouldn’t be returning until October in celebration of Chocolate Week.  But we’ll be providing the Clubhouse with a regular supply of Divine Mini Bars from now onwards so they won’t be missing out altogether!

Thanks to Nikki and the team for a grand day out airside and we hope you enjoyed the demos & chocolate!  I’m looking forward to returning as David’s sous-chef for Chocolate Week in October.

Divine Summer Fun

14 July 2009
Divine White Chocolate with real strawberries

Divine White Chocolate with real strawberries

We are getting into the summer mood here at Divine!

It’s our favourite time of year to enjoy Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries, reminds us of an afternoon spent on grassy banks enjoying strawberries and cream in the sun. Delightful!

We will also be attending a number of events over the summer including Ben & Jerry’s Sundae Festival, Greenbelt Festival with Christian Aid and we are involved with the Big Lunch this weekend. Divine and Ethical Superstore have put together a Fair Trade Hamper for all those Big Lunchers out there – a Jute picnic bag full of Fairtrade goodies including Divine chocs, Traidcraft brazil nut cookies, Fruit Passion orange juice, Equal Exchange cashew nuts, and Equality wine.

And finally heres a recipe to make any summer party a sensation. The Divinitini Cocktail recipe made with Grand Marnier, vodka and Divine Milk Chocolate, designed by chic London hotel The Sanderson.


Jamila spends a week with Divine

10 July 2009
Jamila Hamze working with Divine

Jamila Hamze working with Divine

Before I came to do my work experience at Divine, I wasn’t aware that their main aim was to improve the livelihoods of smallscale cocoa farmers. For me, Divine Chocolate was just the 50p tasty chocolate bars sold in the school vending machines. But now I’ve met and worked with all you hard-working people. I realised that each of your jobs are unique and that you are all needed for Divine to succeed and run smoothly. I’ve completely enjoyed my work here from packing up chocolate to managing telephone calls. And even though I was nervous, and sounded glum at first (as Natasha said) I still enjoyed it because it was new and a bit of a challenge for me.

I’ve learnt so much about fair-trade, recognising the symbol and understanding its meaning. At school (St Marylebone C of E School), I don’t think that students are aware about Divine being fair-trade and its impact on the producers in developing countries. It would be great if everyone was aware of the need for Fair-trade and the importance of the FAIRTRADE Mark. Knowing that Divine is Fairtrade is great. To be honest it never occurred to me that chocolate, a product most people take for granted, could make such a difference. I think if everyone knew the amount of effort Kuapa Kokoo farmers put in, and the amount of effort staff at Divine Chocolate put in then people would realise how truly amazing Divine is. I also had the chance to cut out LOADS of press columns for Rosanna and was able to read so many great views on Divine.

During my first week, I watched some videos made in Ghana. Some made me laugh and some made me want to cry but it was great listening to their hopes and dreams, and inspiring to know that most of them wanted to be doctors and help others. One boy said he only wanted to marry a beautiful wife and have 10 kids! Their enthusiasm for their dreams of creating something new and imperishable was clearly shown as they spoke so animatedly and passionately. I surprisingly did enjoy tidying up the room downstairs for Tom because I had a chance to think as well as have a look at all the amazing products. If only my mum was there to see the result because then she might stop nagging at me to tidy up my room!

On day 4, I was typing up brainstorm notes for Charlotte, and I thoroughly benefited from reading the ideas. One point that stood out for me was “I wish that chocolate wasn’t thoughtless,” and it made me realise that people DO just go into supermarkets and buy what they feel like and not on what should be educated about the truth behind other brands.

I’m always on the lookout for fairtrade products now and I have made sure that my family are aware of it. It has all been such an amazing experience. I feel I’ve grown more confidence in certain areas and I’ve learnt so many things. I wish all the best for Divine Chocolate and will continue to tell people about all the ethical work that is done.

Jamila Hamze

Kuapa Kokoo in London for Divine Board meeting

9 July 2009
Mr PCK Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union

Mr PCK Buah, President of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union

We are here in London again for Board meetings – for Divine USA and Divine UK – along with all the other Board members.  This morning we were interviewed for a feature in the Greenbelt festival magazine. We got talking about the impact of the global ‘credit crunch’ both in Ghana and here in the UK.  For Kuapa Kokoo one of the big issues is the impact on interest rates – paying huge interest rates is having a significant effect on our profitability – and for the farmers, fuel, transport and food costs are all increasing. Here in UK it is also clear living costs are going up for everyone and people are cutting out non-essentials. We hope people still buy their favourite Divine chocolate – it is a little treat – but a very special one. It is the chocolate company we at Kuapa own, and if you buy it here, it is good news for farmers who are suffering rising costs too.  And how can you resist!  Mr Buah and myself like the Dark Divine best – because it’s got more of our pa pa paa cocoa in than all the others!

Mr K Aduse-Poku, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd

Mr K Aduse-Poku, Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Ltd

Mr PCK Buah and Mr K Aduse-Poku

Guess who’s loving Divine (4)

8 July 2009

Sway says:

“As someone with Ghanaian roots, I think it’s great that the cocoa farmers over there get a fair share of the action.  Happy 10th birthday Divine, and keep up the good work.”  

Who else is loving Divine?

Preparing for the Kuapa AGM

3 July 2009
Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Kuapa farmer and National Executive member

Christiana Ohene-Agyare, Kuapa farmer and National Executive member

Hello, my name is Christiana Ohene-Agyare. I am the recorder of Kwabeng Kuapa Kokoo Society and the National Treasurer of the Union.

Being a member of Kuapa Kokoo has taught me that whatever a man can do, a woman can also do and even better. The position of recorder is traditionally seen as a job for men but I realized I could perform that job better than the men and so I contested for it and won about 80% of the votes!

I have been appointed chairperson of the planning committee to organize this year’s Annual General Meeting which will be held on the 29th and 30th of July. This is a very big task but i am up to it! The AGM is the biggest event on the Kuapa Kokoo calendar! Over 2400 representatives from the various societies will be attending. We will also get the chance to decide on various projects for the coming year.

I must say that I have enjoyed a lot of benefits from Kuapa Kokoo and Fairtrade: Today, I am better able to look after my family- my two children are all in school. My daughter is in her final year at the Takoradi Polytechnic persuing a course in marketing. My son is also at the University of Science and Technology. I was able to put them in school because my income level has improved over the years.

My village Kwabeng also has a borehole that was built with Fairtrade funds. We do not have to walk long distance to fetch water anymore… there is clean portable water in the heart of the village.

I particularly like being a member of Kuapa Kokoo because it is very democratic. Every farmer is able to contribute their ideas when we have meetings. In Ghana, farmers are normally not consulted before decisions affecting us are taken. They just assume that farmer would like one thing or the other. Most of the time policy makers get it wrong! Kuapa Kokoo however, offers farmers an opportunity to decide for ourselves.

I am very proud to be a member of a cooperative that co-owns Divine Chocolate. Two members from Kuapa sit on their board. It is unique! I do not know any other organization in the world that has this kind of business relationship. People all over the world know Kuapa Kokoo because we co-own Divine and we are very proud of our chocolate company. I wish to entreat more people to buy Divine!